Friday, 6 December 2013

Strange fish

We both shot off our stools instantly as if we had been simultaneously jabbed in the bum by a pin. But no squeals or expletives were uttered, as it was a fleeting glance of flank that had drawn our bulging eyes magnetically over the bank and not posterior pain. For more than a moment we stared into the clear cold depths waiting for the fish to surface again and answer my hopes, and maybe even Jeff's hopes as well! 

Then it surfaced thrashing around, still hiding its true identity in the disturbed water. Again though it seemed possible that it might be as we both wished, a giant ruffe. Then in the tiniest swing from water to hand all hope drained away. It was weirdly close... but on this occasion there was no cigar going to be smoked in celebration. What had raised us up on such a uneventful day was in fact not a tiny giant in which we are both inclined towards, but was instead the second oddity of the day, a perch with no stripes...

We were meant to be zander fishing, checking out a new stretch of canal, but it turned out if there was as tipped any big zeds present, they hadn't got the memo to say that we were coming and they should eat. And thus so I had grown a little bored waiting and had begun messing around with my Mach 2 wand, which I have decided as a early new years resolution that I will take every were I go just in case and because it's brilliant.

Back to that perch - it looked normally odd if you get what I mean. Like a tiger that has no stripes. And like a tiger that has no stripes, its no less of a tiger, rather than something doesn't click to say that's what it is. I tried my best to get a good clear shot and in the bright light this was about the best of them. As you can see it wasn't washed out or anything and it's brethren, like itself, were reasonably well coloured but striped. I suppose only some in-depth genetic study of the entire Coventry canal population might determine why this one, or maybe many perch in this area, might lack the synonymous stripe of the billie, or possibly it was just that one in thousands that nature deems to be different. 

It wasn't as I hinted before the first strange thing we had seen on this foray. A few casts prior to this I had caught a not dissimilar sized sarge that although perfectly normal in every way seemed to be in a strange situation for this time of year. Upon picking it up and unhooking it I noticed a yellow glob of what I thought was fish poo on my hand. It's not to unusual for a fish to defecate in your hand when you catch them but this stuff looked weird. Then on closer inspection I found it was not fish faeces but was instead eggs. The plump little fish which was obviously female was crammed full of eggs and it would she was so heavily laden that they were venting under the pressure.

Now I've seen this before, but only in the spring when fish are filling up ready to spawn the next generation of little perch and never have I seen this prior to Christmas. Both me and Mr Hatt were quite perplexed by it truth be told. I know we have some arse about face weather round these parts but spawning fish before winter, that don't seem right if you ask me. I would be interested to know if anyone else knows of, or has seen this before in perch, or do perch actually start filling up before the winter sets in as to be one of the first to spawn, like many other predators do early in the year?


  1. I remember having the odd stripeless perch (I think from the grand union) many moons ago but never spawning perch in December. I did catch a zander full of eggs last winter - 29.12.12 to be precise (date, not new zander record!) if thats any help?

  2. A mate of mine used to have a fish tank with river fish in it, mini-barbel, minnows, roach etc. And perch, the perch would go in a typical green and black stripey and within 2-3 weeks would look exactly like this - we never worked out why.

  3. It was a very weird morning. Not a touch on four zander rods over how many hours? There's always something happens at some point with that many baits in the water on almost any canal with a good zed population.

    A December butterfly, a spawning perch, the possible record we both really believed was one for a few delicious seconds.

    And to crown it the horse that barked like a dog...


  4. That's so unusual to see them spawning before Winter - maybe the warmer temperatures could have something to do with it; almost trick the Perch into think it's the right time for spawning... who knows! Laura @ Marine Aquariums

  5. My daughter caught 1 that was plain yellow last night.

  6. The fish pictured looks like a Ruffe to me! Canal is full of them!

  7. hi, I'm not into catching fish like you folks, I prefer to watch them. (but its thanks to folks like you we are readily aware of illnesses fish face). However in reply to your Question. I keep Perch in a fish tank, as well as things like goldfish and the likes. I have known Perch to spawn 3 times a year if the temps are warm and food is easy to come by, this can be starting from as early as late feb - may, from June to Arg, and as late as Oct Nov. This depends on if the weather if warm. On this perch's case it maybe you had a warmer early winter at the time of catching her and she was very egg bound, and this spawning while you handled her after catching her is very likely a stress response of her body. She may have gone on to die from shock upon return, OR you may well have saved her life by getting her body to unbind those trapped eggs. We will never truly know for sure. But it is common in the right conditions.

    all that said I do agree with Sean Bawden, That looks more like a Ruffe
    The ruffe's colors and markings are similar to those of the walleye, an olive-brown to golden-brown color on its back, paler on the sides with yellowish white undersides. The ruffe is usually 4–6 inches (10–15 cm) long and will never exceed 10 in (25 cm), but is a very aggressive fish for its size. The ruffe also has a large, spiny dorsal fin likely distasteful to its predators. It also has two fins on top, the front fin has hard and sharp spines, the back fin has soft spines called rays. The most obvious features to recognize a ruffe are the ruffe's large, continuous dorsal fin and its slightly downturned mouth.
    The ruffe has the capacity to reproduce at an extremely high rate. A ruffe usually matures in two to three years, but a ruffe that lives in warmer waters has the ability to reproduce in the first year of life. A single female has the potential to lay from 130,000 to 200,000 eggs annually. Ruffe will leave the deep dark water where they prefer and journey to warmer shallow water for spawning. The primary spawning season for the ruffe occurs from the middle of April through approximately June. So in October it would be odd for a Ruffe to be Egg bound like this one.